Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis’ environmental record came under fire Monday after the state House speaker touted a program he has supported repealing.
Tillis talked about the state’s so-called Renewable Portfolio Standard at a Charlotte energy forum sponsored by the website Real Clear Politics.
Tillis’ comments came on a day he traded shots on the environment with the campaign of Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, the incumbent.
Tillis again accused Hagan of supporting proposed federal regulations that he said would raise energy costs for every North Carolina home. And Hagan’s campaign said Tillis supported rules on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that would prevent the disclosure of potentially harmful chemicals.
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Speaking to the audience at the Mint Museum, Tillis extolled the state’s progress under its Renewable Energy Portfolio, mandates in North Carolina and more than 30 other states requiring utilities to derive part of their energy from sources such as solar or wind.
North Carolina’s law requires utilities to get at least 12.5 percent of their retail power sales from renewables and energy efficiency by 2021.
“In North Carolina we’ve seen a lot of great successes,” he told moderator Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics. “Solar is getting to the point where it can sustain itself. We’ve seen water-to-energy projects, hog waste, a number of other things that have come up over the last several years since the Renewable Portfolio Standard was established.
“Those are the sorts of things we should be talking about and promoting instead of this what I consider ‘war on traditional sources of energy.’ ”
After a Republican primary debate in April, Tillis said he supports efforts to repeal the standard. He said he was “optimistic” that the next speaker could oversee its repeal.
The General Assembly’s 2013 budget also cut more than $2 million from the state’s Biofuels Center, a nonprofit that was forced to close as a result.
“When Speaker Tillis discusses energy, it’s a textbook definition of saying one thing and doing another,” said Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.
When he supported ending the standard in April, Tillis called for an “orderly exit,” not a sudden repeal.
“It’s fair to say that Tillis was not a proponent of repealing the standard in the last session,” said John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation. “He could be consistent in opposing repeal of the standard now but arguing that it should go away in the future.”
As he had in recent debates, Tillis criticized Hagan for supporting an Environmental Protection Agency whose climate regulations he said would eventually cost homes in North Carolina $1,200 a year.
“Sen. Hagan doesn’t understand that government doesn’t create jobs, government kills jobs,” he said at an earlier appearance Monday.
Tillis’ campaign said the $1,200 estimate comes from the conservative Heritage Foundation. PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checker, rated a similar claim in Virginia’s Senate race as wrong.
EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds said the Heritage figure assumes a complete phase-out of coal as an energy source, while EPA proposals would leave states with flexibility to choose their fuel sources.
Tillis also rebutted claims Hagan made in a debate that legislation passed on his watch would prevent disclosure of chemicals used in fracking to help release energy from the ground.
“Sen. Hagan says we don’t have to disclose the chemicals. We, in fact, do,” Tillis said Monday. “What we don’t do is the so-called ‘recipe.’ But the information on chemicals being used are made available.”
The law passed in 2013 requires chemicals to be listed on a Chemical Disclosure Registry at a website called fracfocus.org. But companies can claim certain chemical combinations can be guarded as “trade secrets” and disclosed only to the state geologist, who could release them only to emergency responders or health officials.
“I think North Carolinians are understandably concerned and skeptical (about) fracking,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the Sierra Club, a group that has endorsed Hagan. “So I think Speaker Tillis’ positions are not consistent with what most North Carolinians are looking for.”
Hood, of the Locke Foundation, said the disclosure requirements were a compromise between those who wanted full disclosure and those who wanted to protect proprietary information.
“It sounded like a reasonable balance between the public’s right to know and the company’s needs to protect trade secrets,” he said.